How Long Have 3D Printers Been Around?

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When it comes to history…

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Facts and actual events become obscured by varying factors. The history of the 3D printer is no exception to this rule. Even when something has been around as short as the 3D printer has, its historical origins and actual beginning are subject to intense debate.

To learn about how long the 3D printer has been in existence just continue to read our article. It explores the topic and gives you the information you need to know about. Then once you have read the information you can choose which side you are on.

How long has the 3D printer been in existence

This is a very good question as there seems to be some disagreement among the experts as to when this device was actually invented and who got the first patent. Even though the concept of 3D printing was known in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1980 that the first patent was applied for… and lost.

The original patent applicant, Dr. Hideo Kodama, in one story applied for the patent in 1980 but was said to be denied because he failed to meet the 1 year deadline to file all the details needed for the patent.

But another story says he was the first successful applicant for 3D technology but that success was done in 1981. A French group of inventors applied for a patent for the stereolithography method in 1984 but General Electric abandoned the application as they did not see how it would be profitable for them.

This left the door open for Mr. Charles Hull and it took him only 3 weeks after the French group’s abandonment of their application for him to file his patent request. It took 2 more years but he was successful and he became known as the father of 3D printing. His patent covered the exact same technology as the French group’s patent covered.

So to answer the question, 3D printing has been around for about 40 years and has been greatly upgraded throughout the decades.

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A 3D printer timeline

1970sThe decade when the concept of 3D printing was conceived but the technology was not there to develop the concept into a working format
1980Possible failed patent application attempt by Dr. Hideo Kodama
1981Successful patent application by Dr. H. Kodama
1984A French application was made and then quickly abandoned
1984Charles Hull applies for his 3D patent on the heels of the French withdrawal
1986Mr. Hull’s application is approved and he receives his patent for his version of 3D technology
19863D printing technology given the name stereolithography,
1987The first SLA-1 printer invented
1988An original SLS printer is invented
1985-1995More companies around the world start investing and making their own 3D printing devices and technology
1992Stratasys invents and markets the FDM process
1993+YOLKS follows that example and expands into direct metal laser centering or DMLS
2000 and on3D exploration explodes and many companies jump on board the 3D bandwagon and make their contribution to this new technological printing method
2010 to 2020New technologies expand the application of 3D printing to almost every industry imaginable

How does 3D printing work

In basic language all the industries using this device are doing is creating solid objects in 3D format out of computer files. Those objects include toys, clothing, tools, auto parts, musical instruments and more.

There are some who say that this printing method can also create human body parts and then go on to say that the application and potential of this printing style is endless.All you need are the files and the right ink to get the job done.

When you are using a 3D printer, you need special ink called filaments to handle the different objects you are trying to pint out. You also need the right file and those files can be in the form of a computer graphic or a CAD file and other options.

Once the file is installed you give the command to print and the printer starts its work. Unlike a regular printer which simply puts images and letters or numbers on a page in one pass, the 3D printer has to use several cycles or layers to create its task according to the file it received.

The pros and cons of 3D printing

To some this is a miracle invention that makes life a lot easier at home and in the commercial or industrial world. But there are always negatives to every invention. Here are the pros and cons of 3D printing


  1. The price of 3D printers have dropped dramatically
  2. Everyone can use one
  3. The 3D accuracy rate has greatly improved
  4. Some software programs are free
  5. Upgrades and innovations continue to take place
  6. Reduces construction waste
  7. Lowers production time
  8. Minimalizes construction labor costs
  9. May produce lower cost housing
  10. Safer and healthier to work with 3D parts over traditional materials


  1. Lowers the demand for skilled and unskilled laborers
  2. Traditional manufacturers will lose business
  3. Retraining is required in some cases
  4. Restrictions on the type of material that can be used
  5. Materials are limited that the 3D printer can use
  6. Relocation of printers can damage the machine
  7. Errors in the digital file could translate into legal and construction problems later on
  8. May not save on construction time
  9. Needs ethical and other oversight for use
  10. Possible to hurt the economy

Some final words

Technology has a way of changing the world. A member of an ancient society may not recognize it if they were transported from their own old civilization to today. 3D printers are just one change they would be mystified at.

While 3D printers have been around for some time, their full potential is being realized and assessed now and in the most recent years. It is too soon to know the full impact of their contribution at this time but they do lend a helping hand to society and its industries